Now that it actually feels more like the holidays have arrived—December is sure to be a busy month for all! Anything associated with holiday gatherings, parties and shopping take up most of our free time and if not planned in advance, can definitely take more time and create more stress than they should.
As always, we encourage everyone to make “Buy it Local” your motto this year–our local economy is heavily dependent on all of us resolving to keep our dollars in Lincoln! These businesses not only provide great products and services, they also employ many people in our community and deserve our support…especially at a time when we plan to spend a significant amount of money anyway!
Holiday Party Time!
We are in the thick of the holiday season, which means tons of parties, events, gatherings and spending time with loved ones. So if you haven’t already planned your December event well in advance, you may want to consider postponing it until afterwards when it becomes something your guests can look forward to as opposed to dreaded as another thing to pile on their already jam-packed schedules.
Jennifer Davis-Korn of 48 Bowl offers plenty of options for those who wish to host their holiday parties after all of the chaos during the month of December has subsided:
“If you’re late to the game with company holiday party planning or you just can’t get it on anyone’s schedule until after December, 48 Bowl centers Parkway Lanes and Hollywood Bowl are happy to host your event in January or February! If you would describe your employees as energetic, active and social, then bowling is a great activity for those personality types! Or what if your business starts the new year with a company-wide fitness challenge? Bowling can be a great celebration or kick-off event to get your employees moving. Bowling is actually a healthy activity that burns about 100 calories per hour, uses 134 different muscles during each delivery, and bowling three games is equal to one mile of walking. Bowling is also a great team-building activity that can challenge your employees or group members to learn how to communicate and work together towards a single goal. If you’d like to set up a company bowling party, but don’t like the slow pace of bowling and waiting a long time between turns, we can help you set up fast-paced, action-packed formats that get everyone throwing every couple of minutes. A quick, mid-day bowling party can also be a great way to break up the monotony of hours spent at a desk. Also, exercise is proven to help blood flow which, in turn, can be an excellent way to help your employees think better.
Our centers have a wide variety of lane availability and can accommodate groups and budgets both large and small. To get your group event scheduled, or for more information, call Terri Jo at Parkway Lanes at (402) 483-7763 and Chris at Hollywood Bowl at (402) 466-1911.”
“People are usually ‘stressed out’ during the holiday period, and may not be able to enjoy a company party because they feel ‘distracted’ by the holiday season,” echoes John Losito, owner of Sun Valley Lanes. “Hosting your party in January, February, March, or even July, could allow more people to attend and feel more appreciated as an employee. It’s not too late to make plans, especially if you are a group of 100 or less. Even in December we can find an open time slot to host your party, however some of the best times may not be available. It never hurts to ask so don’t be afraid to give us a call to check on availability.”
And what better way to spend time with family over the holidays than over a few games of bowling? Losito adds, “We actually cancel all of our leagues between Christmas and New Year’s. This allows us to have open lanes in the evening, during the week, when many families are in town visiting for the holidays. We even offer pre-paid reservations for these lanes during this time period, as well as any other open play time. We also offer three great New Year’s Eve parties. Our two early parties are specifically designed for families, and have sold out the last several years, and our late party is more adult-oriented as it is for those ages 21 and over only. Regarding last minute gatherings, we can sometimes schedule a smaller party in, even on short notice, as the lane availability will vary, even on a busy weekend. If we can host it, we will make it happen!”
This year, in addition to spending time with your loved ones at the lanes, also consider giving the bowlers on your gift list a special treat. “A Sun Valley Lanes gift card makes a great gift or stocking stuffer, and they are unique in two very special ways,” Losito explains. “First, our gift cards are valid towards the purchase of any item under our roof, including open bowling, food, beverage and pro shop purchases. We are the only bowling center in Lincoln that has all four of these options available. Second, our gift cards also behave as our ‘Players Club’ card, which rewards the customer for each purchase. For every dollar spent on a purchase at Sun Valley Lanes, the customer earns 5% towards a future purchase, which is also another Lincoln area exclusive.”
When it comes to the food, the holiday season offers an abundance of classic dishes to savor and new, innovative treats to test out—or in the case of both, fresh twists on classic holiday favorites! Whether it’s a delicious meal or an impressive spread, festive food and drinks are staples of holiday gatherings. Depending on your vision for the festivities, the catering options available in Lincoln are endless—not to mention a stress-free way to treat your loved ones, co-workers, guests, and so on. This is one thing you can literally “take off of your plate” and place in the hands of local professionals who will ensure that the fare is one of the highlights of the event!
“The holidays are typically a very joyous time of year that’s full of family and friends. But if you’re running from event to event, it can be hard to find time to shop for gifts or cook up something to bring to your next holiday party,” says Jennifer Jones, owner of Raising Cane’s. “If you find yourself in this situation, let us help. A Raising Cane’s gift card is a great last-minute gift for a host or hostess and this holiday season, when you buy $25 in gift cards, you’ll receive a $5 gift card that you can either keep for yourself or give as another gift. In addition, if you just couldn’t find time to cook up anything, let us do it for you. Order a tailgate with Cane’s Sauce and add in Texas Toast, our Fresh Squeezed Lemonade or Sweet Tea—it’s always a crowd pleaser.”
To avoid stress this year, Jennifer advises, “If you’re like the majority of us, you pack your schedule from the time you get up to the time you go to bed. This holiday season, give yourself time to truly enjoy every moment by not demanding so much of yourself. If that means you don’t get to cook your famous Pumpkin Pie that you’ve made for the last 10 years, don’t sweat it. Take solace in the fact that although your pie is delicious, it’s you that they want to see and spend time with. So, stop by a store and grab something on your way there instead.”
And as for company parties, she also agrees that sometimes the best ones happen after the holidays. “After the holiday hustle and bustle we hit January. A month that is typically cold, we’re on a holiday hangover and we find ourselves with a little more time on our hands. Holding a party after the holidays when people’s schedules are less hectic can many times mean that more people will be able to attend and they’re less stressed, which usually means they are able to enjoy themselves a little bit more. So, go against the norm and find a time after the holiday season to host your party. And since most people are over the traditional holiday foods, find an alternative, like fresh-never frozen Chicken Fingers and Cane’s Sauce. We can help feed a party of any size.”
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Kyle Rein, Catering Manager for Greta’s Gourmet Catering, continues, “The holidays are a time to celebrate and be with those that we love, be it a friend, family, or pet. The most important spending you can do this season is time with those you love. What better way to do that than to share a meal. Let us handle the cooking time while you spend time making memories, as they are truly the ‘gift that keeps on giving.’
We make from scratch fresh and delicious meats and products every day, and there is always something great coming out of our kitchen that would make anybody’s holiday brighter. Treat them to a gift basket of edible goods hand-crafted right here in our shop, or our beautiful and delectable Christopher Elbow chocolates always make for a great stocking stuffer.”
He adds, “Let’s face it, the holidays are hectic, and it can be stressful trying to make it to every function. Holding your holiday party after the rush of the holidays is a great way to give your guests an opportunity to breathe and get back into the party spirit. Plus all the fun holiday stuff is on sale and you can create beautiful centerpieces and decorations on a dime.”
When asked about his advice for reducing stress during the final stretch of the holidays, Rein simply replies, “Three words…Christopher Elbow chocolates.”
In addition to guests having too much on their plate to really enjoy themselves, even having a good turnout can prove to be a challenge for holiday parties in December. Deborah Carroll of Country Inn & Suites explains, “One of the biggest advantages to hosting a post-holiday party/event is attendance–your guests just aren’t as overloaded with school/friend/family activities as they are pre-holiday. Plus, I think it is fun to have an event to look forward to in January–we get such great guest turnout at post-holiday events. At Country Inn & Suites, we love to make your planning so easy and simple. We offer great party planning assistance with menus, decorations, setups and clean ups, and even entertainment suggestions if you need some. In our banquet center we offer rooms to accommodate an intimate family gathering all the way up to a more formal business/corporate party. Our Board Room on the upper level, which seats approximately 30 guests, even has a fireplace! What could be more inviting for a holiday event?”
She also offers some helpful tips for alleviating stress this month:
“We all suffer from overload during the holidays. Try to relieve stress by finding venues that give you resources that take care of the details. That is what we are available to do, so you don’t have to overload yourself with the details of party/event planning. Our restaurant, Beacon Hills, is a great gathering place for small office parties, luncheons, even small holiday dinners and office caterings. So if a banquet room is out of your budget this year our restaurant has a warm, inviting atmosphere that offers so many great menu items. Anne McVeigh, the restaurant owner, would be happy to assist with those arrangements. Happy Holidays!”
Annette Marquez, owner of The Perfect Occasion LLC, also offers some helpful advice and ideas for hosting a successful holiday party:
“What just happened? You looked at the calendar and it said December 1, 2014 and not a single shred of preparation is in place for your organization’s holiday gathering. This could be the moment to panic, or the perfect time to step back and think about this whole holiday party thing. Let’s take a deep breath and go with the latter.
Whether you choose to have a celebration in December or after the first of the year, the best way to relieve stress and actually save money is to plan early. Make a list of every single detail from where to hold it, the menu and if there will be entertainment are only a few examples. Determine who is responsible for each detail and the deadline for completing it. It helps to have several people sharing the workload.
Here are some ideas for you. Remember holiday parties don’t have to be elaborate. Consider serving heavy hors d’oeuvres rather than a sit down meal or getting together for dessert only or maybe a light breakfast.
If you want to hold your event before the end of the year, you will need to scramble to make sure your desired venue and suppliers are available and that you can get all the details arranged in just a couple of weeks. With the trend toward holiday parties being held after the first of the year, you may still be in luck finding the venue you want. The bigger issue than finding a place to hold a party is that your intended guests may have already accepted invitations to other parties or family events.
Pushing a holiday or year-end celebration into the new year may be just the answer. The “holiday hectics” have settled down and the “winter doldrums” have arrived. People may be ready for a get together. If this is your decision, book now and start planning.
If you choose to go into spring, you can hold a party with a winter theme using decorations such as snowflakes and ice sculptures to create a winter wonderland. This would maintain the holiday gala feel even though the holidays have passed.
It can be fun to plan a celebration that is outside the box. Look at the list of holidays that fall in the early months of the year. Perhaps a celebration using Washington’s Birthday/President’s Day as the theme with red, white and blue decorations and foods from the period to generate a fun event. You might even be able to convince some folks to come dressed in costume.
If you want to plan something in the spring, consider an Arbor Day celebration, which will be April 24 this coming year. You could incorporate a community project into your celebration by planting trees.
Does your organization have a significant anniversary to celebrate? This could be just the ticket to designing a great event.
No matter when you chose to hold your celebration, relax and have fun.”
Last-Minute Gift Ideas
Even though a month seems like plenty of time to prepare for the holidays, most of us know better and have planned ahead as much as possible. However, there are still plenty of wonderful gifts out there that can easily be swooped up during the month of December! Here are a few of our favorite last-minute gift ideas for those who need a little holiday inspiration:
“Jewelry is always a great last minute gift idea. You can get in and out in a few minutes if you are decisive and we gift wrap. When you arrive home you will have a perfect gift that you don’t have to do anything else with but present!” says Jenny Thomas of AT Thomas Jewelers. “We keep a wide variety of styles in until we close at 4 p.m. Christmas Eve. We also strive to keep our store well organized and keep similar styles grouped together so you can scan the designs, and then allow us to help you see the merchandise closer to make a final decision. If you are a last minute shopper, consider what you purchased last year and either get a complimentary piece or go with something new and exciting–something the recipient would never have thought they would receive. During the month of December our cases are the fullest they are all year. This is the best time to buy and see many of the latest trends and styles.” Jenny also recommends being somewhat decisive when purchasing gifts to alleviate some stress and hassle. She advises, “Keep it simple. While sometimes it is necessary, back and forth shopping and driving all over town can be exhausting. When you find something that piques your interest or you love; get it!”
The Nine’s, a women’s and men’s boutique in Fallbrook, is another great stop for fun, stylish last-minute gifts. “At The Nine’s, we offer a lot of great items that aren’t size specific!” says Kathy Hagge, owner of The Nine’s. “We have a huge selection of accessories, such as scarves, jewelry, local team bracelets (currently Pius X, North Star and Husker varieties) with interchangeable sports charms, as well as cami’s and leggings that are one size fits all. But of course, you can’t go wrong with a Gift Certificate from The Nine’s! We have new inventory coming in weekly, and we have recently begun to carry items in XL, 1XL and 2XL sizes. Look for our ad in Strictly Business for 19% off of regularly priced items!”
When asked about advice for holiday shoppers, Kathy adds, “Don’t STRESS!!! Retail therapy is the best! Come out for a wine night on a Thursday evening and you can chat with the ladies and kick around some gift giving ideas. If you are stuck on the difficult person on your gift list, I’m confident that someone else is having a similar gift giving dilemma and what better way to solve it than with a group—the more ideas the better!
While Art Glass Unlimited is well known for their fun, creative classes, they also have plenty of ready-made items that are perfect for holiday gift giving. This includes a variety of gifts made by local artists that are available for purchase, including fused glass ornaments, decorative bowls and large hanging glass pieces, and more. As all pieces are handmade, no two are alike, and items range from $10 on up which fits within the holiday budget nicely. Also, if you are looking to give someone the gift of an experience (plus your own work of art to take home with you!), a class or workshop is perfect for the artist or crafty person on your gift list.
Sweet treats are also a holiday staple, both for gift giving and for holiday parties! Regina Henson, owner of Cupcakes & more… in Lincoln, offers some delicious inspiration for your holiday preparations:
“It’s already December with just a few days left to get your Holiday shopping finished plus you are planning your Holiday parties. Let Cupcakes & more… be your elf to help you out this season. Not sure what to buy that family member, friend or co-worker that has a ‘sweet tooth’? We have gift certificates in any denomination, from $5 – $500, and then the recipient can come in any time and pick up his/her favorite sweet treat! They are great stocking stuffers too.
Want to attach that gift certificate to a package of sweet treats? We can do that too, and finish it all off with a festive holiday ribbon! If you don’t have time to deliver your gifts or for a special surprise, during the month of December we are offering FREE delivery in the Lincoln area! And as for the clients, vendors or customers you want to recognize this holiday season, we can assist you with our holiday packages. These are custom made and decorated sweet treats wrapped and ready to be delivered.
It’s also time for the holiday parties! Be the envy of your guests and let Cupcakes & more… create all of your holiday desserts; cupcakes in three different sizes, cakes in all sizes, cake balls and cake pops, brownie shots, decorated sugar cookies in a variety of shapes, brownies and cake ball cakes. Another treat we are now offering is our famous Kolaches from a 4th generation recipe with a variety of fillings.
So now you know what you want to present on your dessert table but don’t know how to set it up. No problem, Cupcakes & more… can create the perfect presentation and we have stands to complete your table. And again, we have FREE delivery in the month of December!
Remember Cupcakes & more… is open 7 days a week. We have freshly baked cupcakes available every day in three different sizes; mini size, regular size and jumbo gourmet (filling in the middle). We are taking orders now for the holidays to ensure you have taken care of your ‘sweet treat’ needs. Please give us a call at (402) 261-6214 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to place your orders today.”
For a classic gift that is great year after year, you can’t go wrong with Colby Ridge. Colby Ridge offers plenty of holiday treats that are perfect for gifts, entertaining holiday guests, or to bring as a treat to your holiday parties. Jeff White of Colby Ridge notes that among their popular packaging options offered are holiday tins, as well as tins for many of your favorite sports teams. They also offer a very unique treat—Chocolate Covered Potato Chips! These delicious snacks are individually hand dipped, which adds to the quality of the product as there are truly no machines used to manufacture this product whatsoever. In addition to the quality of their popcorn, candy, and other creative delicacies, they pride themselves on being extremely flexible and can customize just about anything you have in mind to create the perfect holiday gift—whether you have planned ahead or need to pick up something at the last minute.
For holiday treats that incorporate a taste of home, From Nebraska is sure to please. This popular Haymarket gift shop features familiar foods and treats to a wide variety of art and handcrafted items and of course, exclusive Nebraska wines straight from James Arthur Vineyards. From Nebraska not only offers these items separately but also in creative assortments which can be picked up ready-made or created especially for you. All of the products offered at From Nebraska are literally just that—made and manufactured in Nebraska by local artists, craftsmen, bakers, farmers, and so on. There’s an assortment of wine and cheese or wine and chocolate pairings, perfectly packaged in gift baskets in the shape of an N or the state if you like, as well as assortments that incorporate a variety of other items–and the Taste of Lincoln gift basket that has it all. These are items that everyone would love as a gift, but that are especially treasured by Nebraskans.
If you are looking for a last minute gift for the golfer on your list, the Quarry Oaks gift card is the perfect solution. Consistently rated as one of Nebraska’s top public golf courses, Quarry Oaks is a destination golf course that combines a fabulous golf experience with some of the most beautiful scenery in eastern Nebraska. You can even order your gift cards online and they guarantee to ship your order very quickly. Additionally, purchasing a Quarry Oaks Holiday Package is the easiest shopping you will do this season…no waiting in long lines! It also offers the best value, and as this special is only offered once a year it is important to take advantage now and complete your shopping for anyone who really enjoys golfing. You can also take advantage of this great special to stock up on rounds of golf for yourself! For only $62.95, you will receive a gift card that is valid for one 18-hole green fee and cart rental, practice balls, a Quarry Oaks logo ball, and a full color yardage guide. And, as a special bonus, when you purchase four packages you’ll receive a fifth absolutely free. These packages can even be used on the weekends, plus your gift card will never expire! They also offer gift cards for purchase in $25 increments that can be used in the golf shop or restaurant. To order your Quarry Oaks holiday package, just log on to quarryoaks.com and click on the Holiday Package link on their home page, or the gift card link at the bottom of the page. They promise to process your order as quickly as possible, as they are locally operated and manage their own website. If you prefer not to wait on the mail, Quarry Oaks gift cards will also be available at all area Austad’s Golf Stores in the Lincoln and Omaha areas through December 31st. You may also call the golf shop at (402) 944-6000 if you prefer to order over the phone.
Another great spot to shop for the golfer on your list, or sports enthusiasts of any age for that matter, is Play it Again Sports. They not only offer a selection of new merchandise, but also tons of reasonable priced, gently used items. “We are completely geared up for the holiday season,” says Diane Hesson, owner of Play It Again Sports. “All of our 2015 baseball/softball products are already rolling in, and our new offerings in fitness equipment for the 2015 season are already on the showroom floor ready to go!” She adds, “I know for myself during the holiday season, I become more stressed just worrying about buying the perfect gifts for everyone. However, I think that it helps to maintain a higher comfort level by keeping your purchases local—you feel better, there’s no worry of shipping or quality, and they can be returned with ease if necessary. We’re always here to help our customers 7 days a week, and the holidays are no exception. Our staff is educated on all of the products that we carry and offering excellent customer service is something that we definitely take pride in. Hopefully that expertise will allow you to make an educated purchase in a shorter amount of time—allowing you to enjoy the holiday season a little bit more. We also offer gift certificates for those individuals on your list who are a little harder to shop for.”
Derek Broman, owner of DE Guns, also offers some holiday gift ideas:
“We offer bulk ammunition at a great price, which is a popular gift idea as most people don’t keep much extra ammo on-hand at home. In fact, right now we are able to offer lower prices on ammunition than we have over the entire year. Defensive ammunition for personal protection is always a great gift idea—most people don’t consider buying this type of product for themselves because it costs more, but there are definitely benefits that make it well worth paying the extra money. We take pride in our user-and mobile-friendly website, DEGuns.net, which makes purchasing gifts very easy for our customers. Both shipping and in-store pick-up options are always available, and our Deal of the Day page always offers great merchandise at the lowest price around. So if you see a good deal on our website, don’t be afraid to purchase online because you can always pick up the item in-store and check it out thoroughly before you leave with it. Furthermore, sometimes our inventory moves really fast so if you see something you like you’ll want to get your order placed as soon as possible. As just one example, we recently offered a one-time buy on a specialty rifle and we sold all 70 of them in 18 hours! And for those trying to shake of the holiday stress, I highly recommend trying out a shooting range—it’s truly a great stress reliever.”
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With all this talk about holiday gifts, make sure to include a little extra holiday love for furry family members and friends too! “A gift card to the groomer is often an unexpected, yet really handy stocking stuffer for the pet lover in your life. For the person who has ‘everything,’ sometimes a pet goodie basket is a simple yet thoughtful way to do gift giving at holiday time,” says Andrea Jones, owner of Packy & Lars. As for holiday gatherings, Jones advises, “Planning ahead is always best, but in the event that the holidays roll in a little more quickly than expected, Packy & Lars is pleased to offer night and weekend appointments to help accommodate the pet who is still looking and smelling a bit too scruffy around the time guests will be arriving in your home. To keep stress low, it is important not to push your pets beyond their normal limits just because of the festive occasion. If your pet is not at the top of his obedience training prior to the holidays, be sure to set him up for success by keeping him stowed away during get-togethers instead of constantly scolding him for jumping on guests’ best attire and trying to steal treats from the holiday dinner table. Then, after all of your merry making is complete, be sure to join us for one of our comprehensive obedience classes as a New Year’s resolution to be sure your pet is guest-ready the next time around!”
She adds, “We are also really excited to offer pet pictures with Santa on Saturday, December 6th and 13th between 10am to 2pm–just in time for your holiday cards!”
So now hopefully you have everything you need to make your holiday parties and gift shopping a success again this year. For all of the odds and ends on your holiday to-do list, make sure to utilize local businesses as much as possible and remember that the goal is more fun and less stress! Furthermore, don’t try to cram your party into December if it can be made into a better event for all to enjoy in January or February. In the spirit of the season, there are also plenty of local non-profits that could use your help this winter—both during the holidays and afterwards. If you are setting goals for the new year or looking to contribute to a local non-profit, make sure to check out our Supporting Non-Profits and New Year’s Resolutions features in the January issue. From the Strictly Business staff to our readers, clients, and loved ones: Happy Holidays and we wish you the best in the coming year!